Kindred v. Burlington Northern Railroad Co
In Kindred v. Burlington Northern Railroad Co., 742 So. 2d 155 (Ala. 1999), the Court considered another case wherein the plaintiff brought an asbestos-related FELA action. In that case, Justice Cook wrote for the Court:
"When a claim accrues, for statute-of-limitations purposes, is a question of law if the facts are undisputed and the evidence warrants but one conclusion. See LeBlang Motors, Ltd. v. Subaru of America, Inc., 148 F.3d 680 (7th Cir. 1998); JN Exploration & Production v. Western Gas Resources, Inc., 153 F.3d 906 (8th Cir. 1998); DXS, Inc. v. Siemens Medical Systems, Inc., 100 F.3d 462 (6th Cir. 1996). However, when a disputed issue of fact is raised, the determination of the date of accrual of a cause of action for statute-of-limitations purposes is a question of fact to be submitted to and decided by a jury. Id. The Court has written:
"'Federal courts have interpreted two Supreme Court cases, Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 93 L. Ed. 1282, 69 S. Ct. 1018 (1949), and United States v. Kubrick, 444 U.S. 111, 62 L. Ed. 2d 259, 100 S. Ct. 352 (1979), to mean that a FELA claim accrues, and the statutory period of limitations begins to run, "when the plaintiff possesses sufficient critical facts from which the injury and its cause, including its work-relatedness, should be plainly known."'" (742 So. 2d at 157.)
In Kindred, the plaintiff had testified in a deposition as follows:
"'Q. When did you first start figuring out you had any problem breathing that would be related to your work?
"'A. Well, I can't recall right now.
"'Q. Okay. Would it have been--When you retired, did you have any trouble breathing at all?
"'Q. Had you noticed any shortness of breath by age 65?
"'A. Well, my breathing wasn't as good as it had been being.
"'Q. Did you think that that had anything to do with those long years that you had worked for the railroad and for T & T and all other odd jobs you had?
"'A. I believe so.'" (742 So. 2d at 157.)
The Court held that Kindred's deposition testimony raised an issue of fact to be resolved by a jury:
"When asked, during his deposition, whether he believed his breathing problems had anything to do with his years of employment with the railroad, Kindred replied, 'I believe so.' Burlington (also the defendant in the Kindred case) contends that Kindred's statement indicates that he knew of his injury and its cause 22 years before he filed this lawsuit. However, Kindred's response is ambiguous and leaves a question as to whether he was referring to his knowledge at the time of the deposition or his knowledge in 1973. Furthermore, in the deposition testimony appearing just before this response, Kindred states that he does not recall when he first suspected that his breathing problem could be work-related. Therefore, a disputed question of fact is raised regarding the date of accrual, for statute-of-limitations purposes; this creates a question of fact for the jury." (742 So. 2d at 158.)